Saying Goodbye to the Man I Called Grandpa


It’s been awhile since I posted something personal, but I’m having a hard time getting past this and a friend suggested I write about it to you. Writing is cathartic, and anyway, I want you to know me for who I am and this is part of who I am.

A month ago my Grandpa died. Last weekend, we celebrated his life together in Oregon in the small town where he spent his whole life. It was a wonderful, whirl-wind weekend where we shared stories of his life, cried, looked at pictures, laughed together, and ate way too many peanut M&Ms. I cried plenty at the funeral and a few times after, and thought the worst of the grieving was over. I now know it had only begun. 

Saying goodbye is always hard. He was an incredible man for many reasons, but most importantly because his family was the pride and joy of his life. I can still see the way he walked with a little jig when he got excited, the mischievous look on his face when he gave us candy behind Mom’s back, the way he patted my arm with a tear on his cheek the last time I saw him. He knew the end was coming, and he made sure I knew how much he loved me, the children, and my husband.

Gosh, I miss that man. 

vintage highschool

The memorial service made me think a lot about the kind of woman I want to be and what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. Someone at the service told us funerals are often boring, but his wasn’t because he lived such a good life. Good lives are interesting to remember. 

My children adored Papa Don, but Hudson is likely the only one who will remember him much at all. You can imagine how sad this makes me. It’s strange to think that a man who is so significant in my life–a pillar who helped shape who I came to be–won’t be a part of my children’s lives. Quite simply, I can’t believe he’s gone.


So, I wrote out all the things I want my children to know about him when they are older, and stood up before hundreds of people at the service to read them out loud. My reading was punctuated by lots of my own tears, some laughter, and the occasional gasp when I realized afresh that he was gone.

I know you didn’t know him, but maybe you will write your own list after reading mine. Or maybe this will make you, like me, think about what kind of life you want to lead and the legacy you want to leave behind. I hope you enjoy it even though he wasn’t your Grandpa.

Kids, I don’t know if you remember your Great Grandpa Don, but he was a pretty amazing man. When I was little he used to hold me in his arms, or sit me on his lap and call me “Granddaughter.” I don’t know why I loved that so much, but I did. He just had a way. 

Grandpa Don loved mischief. When the women told him not to get us wound up, he would feed us sweets secretly in the other room. He kept peanut M&Ms in a tin by his chair and used to shake the tin when he wanted us to come running. We always did! Grandpa Don’s peanut M&Ms always tasted better than any other kind. They were secret, and not allowed, and special because he refilled the tin just for us. To this day peanut M&Ms are my favorite candy. 

Grandpa Don had a great way of walking. I can still see it so clearly as he used to walk his property, or the forest when we camped. He loved the outdoors, he loved his dogs, and he loved hunting. I think he just loved to be out in nature, and I agree with him there. 

Grandpa Don was a great storyteller—one of the best! He could talk his way into anything. He taught me that confidence is the key to many successes in life. If you think you can do something, then others will believe you! I always admired Grandpa’s audacity, his courage, and the way he wasn’t afraid to go get what he wanted. 

Kids, I also want you to know that Papa Don loved you very much. You were his legacy. By the time you were born he knew the key to a happy life: love your family and do what you love. He valued freedom, courage, determination, and faithfulness. As his descendants, you are all responsible for passing down that same legacy.  

Others knew him as Don but I called him Grandpa. He was known for his tenacity, determination, fierce love for his family, and a magnetic personality. He is sorely, deeply, missed. 

I pray God blesses YOU today, friends. Thank you for coming and reading my story. Life is short, and this week I’ve been doing my best to cherish it with my sweet children. More sewing-related posts to come next week. Blessings to all of you! 

married in 1951
My grandparents, married in 1951


  1. says

    Sweet Caila, this made me ugly cry. I loved reading about your Grandpa and seeing such adorable pictures of him! He’s a man after my own heart in that polka dot tie! I hope over time as you reread this you’ll remember your Grandpa with a smile and a snicker and your pain will hurt a little less. Your kids will forever cherish your words and this memorial to him. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. says

    What a sweet post. He sounds amazing! The candy tin? I’m so doing that when I have grandkids. Beautiful and well written. I’m sorry for your loss. And glad that he has made your life richer.

  3. says

    Caila, I always enjoy being around you. Your joy filled attitude is overflowing and contagious. After reading your words above, I now know that your love for your beautiful family and for others comes from you grandpa. Grandpas are pretty special aren’t they? I recently have lost both my grandpas. Something I have been learning is that although my grandpas are gone, I still carry their love, and traditions in my heart. Although you children will not know your grandpa physically, I know that they will know his spirit and love as it is lived out through you, I know that is my hope for when I have children someday…I love you friend and am deeply sorry for your loss.

  4. says

    Dear Caila, what great words. I know how it feels I have lost all 4 of my grandparents and also my Mom. I know time will heel my heart and yours also but it is hard at the beginning. Your children will know all about him because of the love you had for him and him for you. I also think writing about it helps just know that his job here was done and GOD needed him for another which I BELIEVE THAT JOB WILL BE TO WATCHING OVER YOU & ALL THE FAMILY & HE WILL BE YOUR ANGEL NOW… I know mine are all taking care of me & my family.. Thanks for sharing your life with us. So very sorry for your loss!!!!! Linda Lee

  5. says

    Your grandpa’s fierce loyalty to family has definitely been passed on to you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories and take your time with your grieving/healing.

  6. says

    Oh Caila, he sounds like a wonderful man and it seems he lived a great, full life. With people like this that are so important to us, I think the gap that remains after they’re gone is the hardest part. There’s a hole, something missing where they should be. To carry on his legacy is a wonderful thing.

    My grandpa used to sneak us candy too. He had a heckuva sweet tooth. 🙂

    Take care girl and be kind to yourself.

  7. Lin says

    Caila, your post made me cry. My dad’s name was Don and I lost him in Feb. He was 99 years young. I am still haveing a hard time reconciling the fact that he is gone. My children adored him and my daughter told him that he was like a rock star to her children…they couldn’t wait to visit him. I hope time will heal your hurt and I hope it will heal mine too.

  8. says

    Thanks for sharing. Your sharing is something that your children will cherish and I commend you for your desire to pass it on. If I could offer just one insight from my own grieving recently from losing my father: the first year is the hardest and then even after the emotions kind of sneak up on you. You may even have emotions that you can’t pinpoint as to their origin and then you realize that you are still grieving. It is good and it is necessary and it is more than healing to grieve someone that you love.

  9. says

    Great post Caila! Everyone who has the pleasure of knowing grandpa remembers something special about him. I’ll never forget the sneaky-guilty pleasures of not only the M&Ms, but “sampler” ham, turkey, or anything else that might be for dinner. Brittany and I use that term regularly!

  10. says

    Caila, I will be praying that the Lord would be gracious to comfort you during this time; He is the God of all comfort! (2 Cor. 1:3-5). My husband lost his grandmother the day after Christmas last year & my grandmother is currently in ICU at the time.

    Thank you for your willingness to be transparent w/this post.